Gluten-free products and fandom are everywhere these days. And while many people have an actual sensitivity to gluten -- a protein found in cereal grains, especially wheat -- have special needs, eating gluten-free has a lot of health benefits for all interested. Generally speaking, cutting down on gluten means cutting down on the intake of carbohydrates, which in most cases -- is a good thing for weight loss and overall health.
But one thing that a lot of gluten-free fanatics don't talk about? How expensive it can be. Americans will spend an estimated $7 billion in 2014 on foods labeled gluten-free, according to consumer research firm Mintel. Why's that? Well, there's a demand. In fact, current estimates say that the gluten-free market will grow by about $4 billion by 2017, and consumers are going to pay the premiums.
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Trying to eat gluten-free and pinch your pennies? Not to worry. Take a look see at these 5 tips to eating gluten-free on a budget:
1. Bring it back to basics: There are a lot of products on supermarket shelves that are marketed specifically toward the gluten-free consumer. However, Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, reminds us of an important aspect of the gluten-free diet: that many foods recommended for a healthy diet, gluten-free or not, are naturally gluten-free. "Fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, plant-based protein such as beans, nuts and seeds, fish and lean cuts of meat and poultry," are just a few Begun suggests. "Focus the majority of the diet on these whole, nutrient-rich foods."
2. Get to baking: Making your own gluten-free versions of the high-priced convenience foods, including baked goods, sauces, dressings, and soups, can save you a pretty penny. Begun suggests freezing leftovers you're not ready to consume and to enjoy at a later date.
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3. Weigh your options: Sure, it may feel attractive to buy brands in bulk at warehouses like Costco or BJ's. However, sometimes buying only what you need (and weighing it by the pound) could save your pennies in the long run.
4. Get over name brands: Make a point to familiarize yourself with the generic versions of your favorite name brand options. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised that your local grocery store makes gluten-free versions of some of their customer's favorite branded items. Some picks you'll most definitely be able to find on shelves? Chips, canned veggies, and cereals.
5. Be smart about your staples: "Gluten-free ancient grains are very popular right now," says Begun. Sure, that's great, but that also means the prices are higher for trendy options like quinoa, millet, and teff because of the increased demand. "Stick to tried and true favorites -- such as brown rice, buckwheat, and corn -- for everyday meal planning."
6. Store your grains right: It's easy to throw out small portions of grains here and there when there's not enough left in the box or bag for a full serving size. Instead of keeping your purchases in their store bought bags, transfer them into labeled mason jars or another type of airtight container. This will assure you really get your money's worth.